As the regular baseball season comes to an end, my favourite team will not be going to the post season. Yes, I can still watch the post season, but it’s not quite the same when your team isn’t playing. By next week, I will be having withdrawal symptoms while looking for something else to fill the void. There isn’t a single series on Netflix that I find as enjoyable as watching baseball.
Since I’m Canadian, it’s pretty easy to guess my team. The Blue Jays, who are currently in rebuild mode. Based on what we saw this season, I look forward to watching those talented rookies grow in the next couple of years. The hard part is waiting for it all to begin again. Waiting for next season.
I am fairly new to baseball, have only been an avid fan for just over three years. In that time, it has become something that fills most summer evenings. The Doc and I count down the weeks, then days, until the first game of the season. We subscribe to MLB so we can start watching during spring training. This may come as a surprise to some people because I have never been interested in playing or watching sports, not even the Canadian-loved game of hockey. So how did this happen? I’m not really sure. It was just as much of a surprise to me as it has been to my family and friends.
I had a very basic understanding of baseball growing up, which stemmed from my elementary school days when gym class took place outside in the dirt yard. The school provided a bat and ball, some kids owned gloves and rocks were used to mark the bases. I was the wimpy girl that couldn’t swing a bat for love nor money, couldn’t run to save my life, couldn’t throw a ball and was terrified of getting hit by one when standing gloveless in the outfield. The only reason I was selected by a team captain was because I was the only person left and the supervising teacher made sure no one was ignored.
Armed with this limited knowledge, I attended a couple of ball games during my years living in Toronto. I was more interested in the food that I couldn’t afford and the people around me than the seemingly slow-moving progress on the field. To put it bluntly, I found it boring. Why couldn’t those guys hit the damn ball? I thought this while seated so far away from the game that the players looked no more than two inches tall.
Then, about four years ago, I sat down in front of the TV during a Jay’s post season game that The Doc was watching. I wasn’t there long when something clicked. It was as if a series of locks and doors and drawbridges opened all at once and let me in. My aha moment. Baseball was all about pitching. All about the pitcher throwing an elusive unhittable strike. And just as much about the batter trying to hit those elusive pitches. I finally understood the battle between them and the skill and intellect and focus required by each player. I developed an appreciation for the thrill and beauty of a great play in the infield or an amazing catch in the outfield. I became engrossed. I have been engrossed ever since.
Watching as I have been for the past few years, I am impressed by so many other aspects of the sport. The increased level of diversity among the players in the MLB inspires me. Players come from all over the world because they love the game. The fact that a pitcher from Korea can now have a career in a North American baseball league or that two brothers from Cuba can play against each other in Canada and the U.S. means that attitudes on the field have come a very long way. Not wanting to sound too idealistic though, it is obvious that some teams are more diverse than others. All we can do in that respect is hope that it doesn’t take another fifty years for the owners and upper management of those teams to change.
What’s not to love about a sport that doesn’t require specific body attributes? Some players are tall, others short. Some have taught muscles, others have loose bellies. Some look like lumber jacks, others like accountants. MLB ball players look more like you and me, if I was a not-very-tall guy instead of a not-very-tall girl. They look like our friends and neighbours, people that we can relate to.
Because we can relate to the players, we can also empathize with them. When they make a mistake, say fumble the ball, chase a bad pitch or miss that perfect strike, we feel for them. We know that these mistakes will never go away They will live on in replays and video clips and be talked about forever. Yet no matter how bad they may have played in one game, they move on and arrive at the next game ready to do their best. They get over it, which is a very valuable life lesson that most of us take years to learn.
Another thing that I love about watching baseball is the fact that players of opposing teams will have little chats with each other while one is holding the other on base or during a pitching change. They laugh like they are telling jokes. They reconnect because they may have, at one time, been on the same team or played in the minor leagues together. They commend each other on impressive plays. There is a mutual respect between them. Sure sometimes tempers fly, but that is rare. Most of the time the game is just a friendly rivalry that is a joy to watch. Baseball players seem to smile more than other athletes.
So as I prepare for the drought of the offseason, I continue to be surprised that I have developed such an addiction for the game. I am so happy about this new obsession because when I am old, much older than I am now; and I can no longer do some of the things I do now, like garden and kayak; when I can no longer get down on the floor to do yoga or think clear enough to write a blog, I will still be able to watch baseball. And baseball will be worth living for.